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Activities director looks to improve quality of life for Sheffield Manor residents

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Judy Small, activities coordinator for Sheffield Manor, speaks to members of the Sunnyside Kiwanis Club Thursday morning. She spoke on the events offered by the retirement center, which includes physical and mental activities.

For Judy Small, every day is a picnic as she develops activities, events and shows for the residents of Sheffield Manor in Prosser.

Small, the activities director and director of marketing for the retirement center, shared with Sunnyside Kiwanis Club members Thursday some of the activities that are held at the center on a daily basis.

She said after 20 years in the wine industry, she found herself more and more isolated with her computer and decided to look for a new career. It was her mother that inspired her to begin looking into positions at retirement centers.

With little experience, she was hired by Sheffield Manor, where she has developed a program that has been described as one of the best in the Valley. Mostly, she said, she listened to the residents and designed a program around what they wanted to do.

"I've found that these people are wonderful people and they have so much to offer," Small said of the residents in the facility.

She said it's important to keep the elderly physically and mentally active and it is her job to make sure they are.

In the mornings she motivates residents to go for a morning walk on one of the pathways. They also have sittercise classes and tai-chi for residents, said Small. Indoor or outdoor golf putting and bowling are also slated activities for residents.

"They will compete in golfing or bowling tournaments," said Small. "We find things to keep them active and to keep them moving. We want them to continue exercising and we encourage them to walk."

Small said that 100 steps make 1/10 of a mile, something she often tells her clients to get them motivated.

Often after breakfast the residents will go on a bus excursion, shopping or on a mystery drive.

Small said in the past the residents have gone to the Washington State University Extension, to see the murals in Toppenish or on a scenic mountain trip on a mystery drive. The residents also enjoy country drives, which allow them to get out and enjoy the day.

"Now we're doing bird watching," said Small. Residents will go on walks in the back yard of the manor and look for different kinds of birds.

"We believe continued senior education is so important," said Small. "These people have so much to offer."

To encourage learning, Small plans afternoons of reading and poetry at the manor's fireside. Local authors have also visited the residents to speak about their books.

A few residents have even expressed an interest in learning French and Spanish, said Small.

Also planned into the activities schedule are travel slide shows of different places Small and other people she knows have visited.

"I usually have a lecture to go along with it," she said.

For those wanting to participate in church services there are Bible studies Friday afternoons. She said the residents gather to sing hymns on Sunday morning. Small added that they also have a program called "church hopping" that allows residents to visit different churches in the area as a part of the program.

The facility currently has 27 apartments, but in the near future cottages will be added to the property, for those who desire a bit more independence. The facility has independent living residents and those requiring assisted living services.

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